Jeremy Pelt Takes a New Path
Posted 3/13/2013

Elaborate on why you went into this new direction, after you had such a successful run with the quintet, just as it was beginning to receive more critical recognition.

Itís bittersweet. After November (MaxJazz, 2008), which was the first quintet record, by the time we got to Men Of Honor (HighNote, 2010), we were well on our way to establishing a core vibe within the group. Certainly, we were getting there by the time of The Talented Mr. Pelt (HighNote, 2011) and Soul (HighNote, 2012). However, that was six years in the making. I couldnít wait for everybody else to catch up.

The fact that the critics and fans finally latched onto it during the last disc is great from the standpoint of finally getting some recognition. But itís bittersweet because it came too late. My head was already someplace else by the middle of last year.

So the transition in my yearning to do something else had already taken place. I canít go into something half-heartedly and say that Iím going to continue the quintet, because itís going to sound half-assed.

Hopefully, it wonít take critics and fans the same amount of time to latch onto what Iím doing with this new band. I donít want it to be another six years after Iíve moved on to something else for people to say, ďOh, but we love Water And Earth

Could you talk about stepping into a mentoring role with this new band?

Iím not old, but Iím not young. Thirty-seven is still young. I donít shy away from the mentor capacity because I think that the younger musicians need somebody like me. Also, I think they appreciate it—as long as Iím not standing over them, saying, ďSon, donít do that!Ē I have them to do what they do. I donít change anybodyís playing.

One of the things that I always impress upon them is the value of a show. When you went to go see Art Blakey or any of the legendary cats, you wouldnít see any [sheet] music on that stage. Yes, you saw music on the stage at Bohemian Caverns, because David and Burniss just joined us on this tour. In Toronto, we had Ritchie Goods and Frank LoCrasto. David and Burniss still need to learn the music, so I will allow music on the bandstand. But after a while, I donít want to see it because that detracts from the show. I hate dead air during a performance. I hate, ďOK, now weíre going to do this song,Ē and having to wait for someone to flip through pages of music. You didnít pay $25 or $30 to see that. The show has to have a certain flow to it.

Talk briefly, from a trumpeterís standpoint, about the challenges of utilizing sonic effects and wah-wah pedals without mimicking Miles Davis too much.

Iíve learned that people are going to compare you no matter what. If I put a wah-wah on a kazoo, they would still say that this is some Miles Davis shit. I canít escape it. At some point, nearly every jazz trumpeter was toying with electronics in the í70s; I think Woody Shaw is one of the few who didnít. And people like Eddie Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Don Cherry and Don Ellis had a certain individual take on it. Thatís the strongest thing that I can possibly do, which is to try to make it as individual as possible.

I certainly have it in me to want to take everyone to task for saying, ďMiles, Miles, Miles!Ē But thatís so time-consuming. At a certain point, I have to ask if calling people out is going to detract from what Iím actually trying to do. So now, my thing is: If all you can come up with is Miles Davis, then that means that youíre not even listening to a lot of stuff.

John Murph

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Jeremy Pelt (Photo: Jati Lindsay)

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